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  1. #1

    Default Philadelphia to Toronto and back again

    Hello everyone,

    I want to start by saying this is an awesome website. I am 29 years old and my wife and I have been talking about driving to Toronto for over a year. So finally we are going to make the trip in August. I know it is a 8 hour drive from Philadelphia but I wanted to make a few stops along the way and enjoy the different cities or even take an alternative route back home. I am open to any advice I can receive. We have 10 days to kill so I figured we should utilize it to the best of our ability. I need advice on car rentals, places to stop and visit, hotels, and alternative routes. I want to thank you in advance for any advice you can give me.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default A Few Routes to Pick From

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    There are lots of choices for getting between Philadelphia and Toronto, and I've driven most of them at one time or another. First, let's look at what on-line mapping sites offer. They will invariably tell you to take the Northeast Extension to Scranton, I-81 to Syracuse, the New York State Thruway to Niagara, and the QEW to Toronto; and tell you that it's an 8 hour drive. Well, that is an efficient route, but it will only take you 8 hours in the fantasy world of computer software. In the real world, where you have to actually stop for gas, food and other pit stops as well as slow down for traffic and crossing the border, that is an all day drive. If you want to stop and see things along the way, that also has to be factored in, so you can stop for an hour here and there, but that's about it.

    If you really want to enjoy the drive and the sites and sights along the way, then I think you'd be much better off planning on stopping somewhere for the night on the way. So, what is available and what are some alternative routes, assuming you find the extra time they require? One would be to first take a drive out through Amish Country to Harrisburg and then take US-15 up the Susquehanna River valley. This is just a scenic route that will eventually bring you up into the Southern Tier of New York where a short detour up NY-414 would take you to Watkins Glen State Park. Next, you'd head back to NY-17/I-86 to I-390 and Letchworth State Park. Finally, you'd head for Buffalo, Niagara and the border crossing. One town I've enjoyed just walking through while my wife window shopped was Niagara-On-The-Lake which is on Lake Ontario at the northern end of the Niagara River. The QEW will then take you around the western end of the lake and into Toronto.

    Another alternative is to go around lake Ontario to the east, starting out on ON-401 to the head of the St. Lawrence River and the Thousand Islands Region. From here, your route would generally follow I-81 and the Northeast Extension. But you might consider a short detour to the ivy league college town of Ithaca and the nearby Taughannock Falls State Park where the falls is taller than Niagara, if not as spectacular. And don't forget to avail yourself of the many other state parks that dot all your routes, in this case for example: Lackawanna State Park north of Scranton.

    My experience with rental car companies is that all the majors are pretty good at providing well-maintained cars in a timely fashion, so price becomes the criterion of choice. One thing you will need to make sure of is that your contract will allow you to take the car into Canada and that you have all the necessary paperwork before you leave the desk. I also strongly recommend that you get and carry a passport. This is the last summer that you will be able to cross the border on 'only' a government issued photo ID and your birth certificate, but a passport will definitely help speed things along.


  3. #3


    Thanks AZ for the good advice. I want to know if you took an alternative route home like driving from Toronto to Chicago back to Philadelphia. Or was it a straight shot from Toronto back to Philadelphia.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Chicago's a Bit Out-of-the-Way

    Both of the routes I described to you are relatively straight shots, given that you have Lake Ontario in the Way. Both could be made in a single hard day's drive if you didn't make any stops other than for the necessities. But if you're going to do that, then just take the direct route that mapping software gives you.

    Chicago, on the other hand, is well off the beaten path between Philadelphia and Toronto, more than doubling the mileage required to get from one city to the other. You'd have to leave yourself at least two and a half says to get from Philly to Toronto going by way of Chicago. That's fine if that's how you want to spend your 10 days, but just realize that you will be adding a lot of driving, and not really gaining anything other than a visit to Chicago.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 04-05-2007 at 10:26 AM.

  5. #5


    I will be scratching Chicago off the itinerary. Thanks for the wisodm.

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